City Guide: Abu Dhabi

An insider’s guide of where to stay, eat and explore in the Middle East’s cultural hub.

The momentum that Abu Dhabi has built up over the past decade is awe-inspiring to say the least. Backed by vast sovereign wealth, it is the second-largest of the seven United Arab Emirates, boasting a growing population of more than two million. As the city continues to transform, so do its aspirations. With more than 200 islands—many of them man-made—the city is already brimming with plentiful beaches, luxurious hotels and stunning skyscrapers that pop against its open skies. 


Just outside Abu Dhabi, the  Qasr Al Sarab by Anantara offers a more tranquil and authentic Arabian experience than the myriad of gleaming, towering downtown hotels. Located a quick helicopter ride away in the Empty Quarter (the world’s largest uninterrupted sand desert), the resort’s secluded Royal Pavilion Pool Villas each offer 1,400 square feet of indoor and outdoor space replete with expansive dune views and a private plunge pool. Watch the sun melt into the rolling hills from the rooftop terrace of Suhail restaurant while enjoying a plate of fresh scallops and mussels. Next day, explore the dunes on camel before unwinding with the four-hour Arabian Desert Rose Ritual, a fragrant spa journey inspired by Abu Dhabi’s rejuvenating elixirs. 

Woman walking at the Qasr Al Sarab resort in Abu Dhabi
(Photo courtesy of Qasr Al Sarab by Anantara)


Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, the  Louvre Abu Dhabi is the first foreign outpost of the world’s iconic museum. Opened on Saadiyat Island in fall 2017, the building is a work of art, with a honeycombed roof and a series of white-coloured cube buildings that mimic the surrounding Arab villages. Inside, the galleries offer a sweeping, chronological story of civilization, including Egyptian relics, such as the funeral set of Princess Henuttawy. Artworks are often on loan from the Paris Louvre, as well as from d’Orsay, Pompidou and Versailles, with works by Monet, van Gogh, Pollock and Warhol regularly on display. Until February 18, discover 10,000 Years of Luxury, a fascinating exhibit of 350 extraordinary objects that explores opulence through the ages. 

Artwork in the Louvre Abu Dhabi
(Photo courtesy of the Louvre Abu Dhabi)


Dubai may have more golf courses, but Abu Dhabi offers more quality, hole for hole, than its neighbour. Ranked as the number one golf course in the Middle East and North Africa this year by the UK’s National Club Golfer magazine,  Yas Links Abu Dhabi offers a spectacular gulf-side location, with eight of its challenging holes spread out alongside shining turquoise waters. Designed by world-renowned architect Kyle Phillips, the terrain is the first true links course in the region and is located close to the Yas Marina Circuit Formula 1 race track. Those looking to walk in the footsteps of modern greats might want to visit nearby  Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where pros such as Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson played in the European Tour in January 2019. 

Chairs at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club
(Photo courtesy of Abu Dhabi Golf Club)


Zuma’s contemporary take on Japanese food offers dishes as neatly presented as they are bursting with flavour, whether from the main kitchen, the sushi counter or the robata grill. Friday brunch—a straightforward afternoon of drinking and eating—is an institution in the U.A.E. and Zuma has one of the best, with its signature sashimi, miso black cod and juicy slices of wagyu beef sirloin. Also on Al Maryah Island,  Butcher & Still is a prohibition era-themed steakhouse with a peerless range of cuts led by the 21-day aged bone-in rib eye. Alternatively, the Grand Seafood Tower is bursting with prawns, lobster, scallops, oysters, mussels and octopus. And the 1920s theme, right down to its dashing servers (courteous, but unfussy), adds to its sophistication. 

A plate at Zuma restaurant in Abu Dhabi
(Photo courtesy of Zuma Abu Dhabi)

Traveling to the Middle East? A Regional Support Office is located in Dubai, providing flight operations support, technical expertise and customer account management for Bombardier business aircraft. A Line Maintenance Station is also set to open in Dubai later this year. +971-4-250-0181 

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